Tameside College is situated in the East of Greater Manchester. The college now has three main centres, all situated in Ashton-under-Lyne. Of the 141 areas in Tameside, eight of these fall within the most deprived 5% nationally and a further 16 fall within the most deprived 10% nationally. The number of students in Tameside schools achieving GCSE grades 9 to 4 in mathematics, although improved, is below the national rate.
As a Centre for Excellence in Mathematics, Tameside College welcomed the opportunity to undertake action research into the teaching of mathematics to GCSE re-sit learners and work closely with other providers to share good practice. Initially, our research had a broad focus allowing us to explore two of the core themes: An Adapted Approach to Mastery and Motivating and Engaging Learners.
We trialled several intervention models around these themes, focusing on an adapted mastery model of teaching in an intervention setting and the creation of a Maths Learning Hub (MLH). This hub allowed us to specifically focus on learners who exhibited barriers to learning in the traditional classroom environment. Often these learners present in mainstream class as ‘challenging’ or ‘difficult’ learners. However, once we are able to create an environment where we could best support these learners in a small group setting, we often identified the main barrier for these demotivated students was the fear of repeated failure and an overarching belief that maths is just too hard for them.
Through trialling various models of intervention in the first year, we realised that the factors affecting our learners were both complex and Inextricably interlinked. Through case study, it was evident that the strands that we were researching could not be investigated in isolation. That is, in order for students to develop mastery of topics and gain a deep, long-term understanding of mathematical concepts, they need firstly to reject the idea that they “just can’t do maths”. In addition, learners need to be in an environment where they are comfortable making mistakes, seeing these as a valuable opportunity to learn and not as failure. These characteristics are intrinsic to students exhibiting a growth mind-set.
With this in mind, in our second year, we have posed the research question:
‘How do teachers operate intervention for GCSE students within a mastery approach?’
This research question has allowed us to continue to work with students and teachers to explore strategies to facilitate a growth mind-set in students. This includes both in-house and external CPD into maths mind-set, motivation and maths resilience along with further maths mastery training based around variation and problem solving. This invaluable training from AoC and White Rose has also been opened up to our network partners so that we can continue this discussion and share case studies in our network meetings.
We are also continuing to work with persistently disengaged learners within the MLH, where teachers are already noticing a positive impact on behaviour both in the classrooms and within the learner themselves.
Alongside these initiatives, intervention teachers are continuing to refine the mastery model which has already seen changes in the way we form our objectives so that we do not assume and pre-determine the depth of understanding that students can reach. Rather, we scaffold through variation to ensure that every learner is able to reach their potential.
In addition to our action research, we are also participating, along with Bury College, in the National Trials (NT), delivering 5 set sessions pertaining to Contextualisation and Data and Technology. Here best practice and emerging themes are discussed and collated through regional cluster groups led by the North West’s Regional Manager. This affords each college within the cluster group an invaluable opportunity to visit the colleges within the group and observe a NT lesson.
Initial findings are positive, and the growth of our network enables us to share this good practice and widen our scope for further research going forward.